Australia Halts Sheep Exports

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By Vittorio Hernandez | September 20, 2012 8:40 AM EST

Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry placed on hold all sheep exports following the order by Pakistan authorities to cull 21,000 Aussie sheep tested positive for salmonella bacteria and actinomyces.

The temporary stop to issuance of export licences places at risk the country's livestock industry. As a result of the temporary ban, the export of 200,000 sheep is in limbo. About 75 per cent of sheep that Australia exports are raised in Western Australia.

Due to the situation, the timetable for the resumption of approval of export remains unclear, said Australian Livestock Exporters Council Chief Executive Officer Alison Penfold.

"There are a number of applications to export to Middle East markets. We are working with the government to provide them with some additional information that they've sought," ABC quoted Ms Penfold.

"This follows from recent significant delays and incidents that have occurred with a couple of consignments up into that region and so the department is now seeking some further assurance, so that they have confidence that the incidences that have occurred recently are unlikely to occur again," she added.

Bahrain initially rejected the Australian animal shipment which Pakistan accepted but changed its mind after two laboratory tests confirmed some of the sheep are diseased. Karachi authorities ordered the culling of the 21,000 sheep but the importer secured a court injunction.

However, Pakistan insisted it would still proceed with the culling to protect human health, while Australian authorities continue to insist the sheep are healthy and certified fit for export and human consumption.

Because of the big question over the sheep export industry, WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association Chairman Digby Stretch is reviewing budgets and chopping off $20 to $30 sheep prices for the next year. Besides sheep meat, the PGA also reduced wool prices by 30 per cent.

Unless the problem is solved soon, he warned farmers may be forced to shoot their flock.

"I go back to the wool stockpile days and times when we ended up having to destroy sheep that had very little commercial value, nothing wrong with the sheep, but nobody wanted them and there wasn't enough space to do anything with them," ABC quoted Mr Stretch.

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